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8 essential elements for a productive workspace

During the first two months of school into the Psychiatric Nursing Program, my home was in chaos. I moved into an unfinished house and was renovating it while trying to get my schoolwork done. It became clear pretty quickly that the living room couch was not the ideal place to motivate myself to focus. I set out to create an office that would help me remain on task, reduce accidental naps, and limit distractions. Below is a list of must-haves I made when creating my office, the desired elements for a productive workspace.

1. Bookshelf

Find a bookshelf to contain all of your school resources. Having a designated location to store your books and binders will help keep clutter at bay. It can also keep your books in good condition so you can resell them when you graduate. Having a bookshelf will keep your books safe from household hazards like a teething puppy and glasses of water.

2. Desk and chair

The desk is the heart of any office. Finding the right desk and chair will make all the difference. Look for a desk that is a comfortable height with a large enough width to hold your computer, an open textbook, and an open notebook. The desk I have in my office is a repurposed singer sewing machine with sentimental value. I added a stained pine top that was wide enough to suit my needs. I also noticed my sore back went away almost immediately after switching from the couch to a desk and office chair!

3. Limit clutter

Limiting visual and physical clutter helped me stay focused and on task. Physical clutter can be a distraction because it lures me to procrastinate by cleaning or fiddling. Visual clutter draws my attention away from a book or computer screen. Be cautious and purposeful in choosing what you see when you sit at your desk. If you do have an office that acts as a guest room, workout room or is shared with another person consider cleaning out the distractions before you sit down to work, or at least putting them out of your line of sight. My bookshelves and most of my knick-knacks are placed behind me so I can’t see them while I’m studying.

3. Clock

Keeping an eye on the time without getting distracted by your phone is a must of a productive workspace. Consider investing in a wall clock and hanging it where you can easily see it. If you find the ticking of a clock to be distracting, try using a digital clock.

4. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode

Although this isn’t necessarily about the physical workspace, I found I wanted to reply to every WhatsApp, Facebook, text, and email notification. It’s easy to waste time reading and replying to messages. If you can put your phone on Do Not Disturb mode you can filter out messages that can wait, while still receiving phone calls if they are important.

6. Item or photo that makes you smile

In my office I have two sentimental items: a photo of my dog and my tambourine. I love my tambourine because a coworker of mine found it in a second-hand shop and said it reminded them of me. Even though I try to limit clutter, I find that it’s nice to have a few items within view that give me some warm-fuzzies when I see them.

7. Stationary organizer

It’s easy for pens, pencils, and Post-it notes to become unwanted clutter. I have a designated place on my bookshelf for stationary. It saves time because I’m not trying to track down pens, and reduces potential clutter.

8. Calendar

Whether its physical or digital, a calendar is a must of a productive workspace. Initially, I used a physical calendar but ended up finding it too inconvenient to carry around with me in public. I have since switched to a digital calendar where I write my daily goals. It’s also nice to keep track of personal activities. It’s important to schedule time each week to do something for yourself like sports, art, or family fun.

These are my tips for setting up an office that will help you get focused and stay focused for your next study session. Hope this helps!

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Program: Psychiatric Nursing

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